The good news is that nobody died or was injured. The better news is that even when faced with the unexpected, I still managed to get dinner for 12 on the table. The camping table, no less… And that is why it’s important to be prepared, and to know how to make casseroles for a crowd!
Let me back up a bit. Anyone who’s read my blog (or listened to my Podcast) is well aware that I love music festivals in general, and Country Thunder in particular. And we do it up big! We have three campsites and bring three RVs/Campers, which means we bring a lot of people! We start prepping several days in advance – food prep (including making and freezing my casseroles for a crowd!), beer prep (don’t even ask how much we bring), cooler prep (ice, ice, ice, and more ice), sleeping arrangement prep (we try to make sure couples actually get to sleep together), and finally, RV prep (it’s a game of inches!) I have a countdown timer on my phone for the final 24 hours, and we check in at the earliest possible time. It’s a huge event for us and we all love it!
So there we were, campers
loaded overloaded, generators and gas cans full, and huge smiles on our faces as we hitched up the RVs to our respective vehicles. My sister and I decided to caravan because we wanted to arrive at the same time (well… it was really because the electrical connection between the vehicle I was driving and the camper I was towing wasn’t working so I had NO brake lights or taillights, but don’t tell anyone cause I’m pretty sure that’s illegal). Needless to say, she had to follow behind me pretty closely so no one else (especially the po-po) would slip in between us and see my breaking-the-law-taillight-situation.
All was going well. Then we rounded the turn that took us from one freeway to another, and that’s when I heard it. This screeching, crunching, scraping, horrible sound! I pulled over the best I could (tough to do where two freeways are merging and the shoulder is completely useless). I jumped out to assess the situation. Yep! As I suspected, the camper I was towing completely popped off the tow ball hitch (yes, I forgot to use a cotter pin. Oops… my bad), which meant I was dragging it on its nose with nothing but the safety chain, and when I stopped, the camper crashed into the back of the vehicle I was driving. Not good. Not good at all. (I had no idea I knew so many swear words!)
There we were – my sister and I – standing out in the freeway interchange with my camper wedged under my vehicle, and hers not even close to being safely out of the lane (that was my fault! I didn’t pull forward far enough to give her adequate room. My bad… again! Uugghh.). My tow bar had melted an inch into the asphalt. Not safe. Not safe at all. But we were lucky! Some guy stopped to help (coincidentally he was also heading to Country Thunder)! And somehow with his little, tiny 8 inch crow bar, he managed to un-wedge my buried-in-the-asphalt tow bar and pop it back on the hitch (securing it with a wire this time), and off we went!
An hour later we made it (safely) to our final destination. Country Thunder! We set up our space with shade structures, awnings, coolers, tables, and mood lighting (I know… a bit dorky, but we like our lighting!) And when our family and friends joined us (there were 12 of us), they were treated to this creamy, cheesy, beefy mac-n-cheese casserole! Thankfully, I had made it ahead so all I had to do was stick it in our camp oven to warm it up. That’s the beauty of make-ahead casseroles for a crowd.
This beefy mac-n-cheese is perfect anytime you need to feed a bunch of hungry people who want a hearty, stick to your ribs meal, but you don’t want to slave over a stove and miss the party. With five simple ingredients that you probably already have – macaroni, ground beef, cheese, milk, and corn starch- you’ll have a crowd-pleasing casserole that you can make ahead whenever it’s convenient, then serve it up in no time (and with no effort)! So whether you need a mid-week meal for your large family, are having friends over for a last minute get-together, are desperate for something to take to a pot luck, or need a great camping meal, make this beefy mac-n-cheese whenever it fits your schedule, stick it in the freezer, and pull it out to heat when you need it. And when life throws you a curve ball, you’ll knock it out of the park! (No one needs to know how easy it was…)
We were lucky my camper and car didn’t flip on the freeway, we were lucky my sister’s camper didn’t get smashed by cars whizzing around that freeway interchange corner, and we were lucky that guy stopped to help with his 8 inch tool. But mostly we’re lucky to all be together and have such a great family! We take the ups with the downs, the highs with the lows, and the unexpected with the mundane. It’s what keeps life interesting!
Casseroles for a Crowd and Camping. Be Prepared.
- 2 Pounds Pasta, Any shape you like
- 2 Pounds ground beef
- 4 Cups Whole Milk
- 6 Cups Shredded Cheese, Cheddar is best
- 4 Tablespoons corn starch
- Salt and Pepper, To taste
- Cook pasta in heavily salted water according to package directions to al dente. Drain and rinse with cold water. Set aside.
- While the pasta is cooking, brown ground beef in a large pot, adding salt and pepper to taste. Brown over medium high heat until cooked through, approximately 10 minutes. Remove beef with a slotted spoon and set aside. Wipe out pot to use for the sauce.
- In a large bowl, toss shredded cheese with corn starch until well coated. Keep near the cook top. Heat milk in the pot used for the beef over medium-low heat until slowly simmering. Add the coated cheese one handful at a time, whisking thoroughly. Keep adding until all of the cheese is incorporated and you have a smooth and creamy sauce. Turn the heat to low and carefully add the macaroni and ground beef. Stir until well mixed. Salt and pepper to taste.
- Either serve immediately, or put into two casserole dishes (I use disposable tins when I'm going to bring it camping and glass 9x12 baking dishes when I'm going to serve it at home). Freeze for later use. When you are ready to serve the casserole, thaw to room temperature and heat in the oven at 350 degrees for 30-45 minutes.
Staying Hydrated and Music Festival Happiness - The Spicy Apron
Thursday 21st of April 2016
[…] you read my Beefy Mac and Cheese post, then you know we got off to a rocky start when we went to Country Thunder (camper coming unhitched […]